Sunday, November 06, 2016

Diving into Nostalgia: A Memory from World Con 2007

My sister posted a video on Facebook.  It was a POV video of someone riding a roller coaster that dives under the ocean through a tunnel.  Here’s a link if you want to see it yourself:  
The coaster is called “Vanish,” and it’s located in a small amusement park in Yokohama, Japan called Cosmosworld.  I know this park.  I walked past it every day walking from my hotel by the train station to the convention center.  I bought souvenir pins for people at work right under one of the turns of the coaster.  
I found myself looking at the buildings in the background.  I saw Landmark Tower, the tallest building in Japan, which was right across the street from my hotel.  And I saw the International Grand Hotel, which is at the Pacifico Convention center where the convention was held.  It’s the sort of knife-shaped white building you see numerous times either through or behind the giant Ferris wheel, which acts like a giant analog clock, with its spokes lighting up to indicate the passing seconds and minutes.  
Looking at these places, I remembered a story of something that happened to me while I was at my first World Con…
It was in the International Grand Hotel, on the “party floor.”  One thing I learned is that there are a lot of parties going on during a World Con.  Typically, one floor of the convention’s headquarters hotel will be set aside for different groups to rent suites or rooms to host their parties.  I learned this from my friend Joe, whom I had met during my pre-convention tour of Japan, and with whom I went to my first baseball game in Japan, along with another friend, Sylvia.  
This was the first night of convention.  Joe was leading me to the party floor, telling me about the different parties we would find.  Bid parties for groups wanting to host upcoming World Cons, organizations or groups that met at the convention every year, like the Heinlein Association, or groups that showed up each year, like the “Norwegian Party,” a group of people from Scandinavia that always brought the most and best booze.  
When we reached the party floor, we discovered that night there was a twist.  The lights were out.  The air conditioning was off.  There had been some sort of power outage affecting the floor.  
It didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the people there.  Joe and I pushed our way through the crowd in the hot and stuffy darkness.  We could hear several different strains of competing music coming from the open doors of the party suites.  Emergency lights and candles provided us with our only signposts to get from “here” to “there,” wherever here and there were.  
“Have you seen my wife?!”  
I found my pressed against the wall of the hotel corridor.  Someone had separated themselves from the crowd, stepped right up to me, and was almost nose to nose with me.  One of his hands were on my shoulder.  Not a threatening grip.  More like a guide to ensure he didn’t actually collide with me.  
What startled me was that I knew this person.  More accurately, I recognized him.  This was David Brin.  One of my favorite science fiction writers.  The man responsible for the Uplift Series, and the standalone novels, The Postman and Earth, and the wonderful non-fiction book, the Transparent Society, which had shaped my own opinions about privacy and surveillance in the future.  
My brain went into a fugue at that moment.  This is David Brin.  It’s hot in here.  He’s right in front of me.  He thinks I know his wife.  Do I know his wife?  I’m backed up against the wall.  I can barely breathe!  Have I ever seen his wife?  I’ve seen his son.  He brought him to Comic-Con one year.  This IS David Brin.  What should I say…?
Before I could get my thoughts untangled, my friend Joe inserted himself into the other half of my personal space and interposed his face between mine and David’s.  
“I saw her over by the Norweigien party!”  Even though he was practically shouting, I could barely hear him over the thrum of noise in the hall.  Joe made a vague gesture pointing back toward the way we had come.  
This wasn’t the answer David wanted.  He screwed up his face.  He made a dismissive gesture.  “I’ve been that way already.  Thanks.  I’ll find her.”  He was then absorbed back into the noise, the darkness and the shuffling crowd.  
I turned toward Joe.  “That was David Brin!”  
“I know.”  
“He was looking for his wife!”  
“I know.”  
I looked back where David had been, but there was no trace of him.  Joe continued to push his way through the stream of people.  I dutifully followed him as my guide.  
It was sometime later, don’t ask me how long.  I’m not sure time flowed in a normal fashion in what felt like an alternate dimension.  We were coming back the other way.  People ahead of us were jumping to one side of the hallway or the other.  Something, big, moving, a jostling mass, was heading toward us.  There was music with a latin beat.  Joe moved out of his way to the right.  I joined him.  
It was a conga line.  Someone in the front had a boom-box that was playing the music.  Someone behind him was dancing/walking to the beat with her hands on his shoulders.  Cut and paste that image again and again and again.  The rest of the party-goers were crowding to one side or the other to make way.  
Pressed up against the wall again, I waited for them to pass.  I was probably smiling.  It was ild.  It was fun.  It seemed to go on forever.  Then, at the end of the light, I spotted him.  
It was David Brin again.  He was the last in the conga line.  He was wearing a crown made from shiny gold paper.  Even in the darkness I could tell his face was flushed.  He was grinning from ear to ear, swaying, dancing and being pulled along by the conga line.  
“Hey, David!”  Joe called out to him.  “Did you find your wife?”  
“No!”  His smile got even bigger as he waved over his shoulder at us and disappeared into the darkness again.  
I turned to Joe and said, “I’ve GOT to keep coming to these World Cons.”  

The End. 


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